This year, DODDS-Europe’s basketball schedule emphasizes geography over mathematics.

Instead of playing the traditional divisional schedule based on enrollment sizes, the high schools will play on a regional basis that groups schools by location, regardless of numbers.

Thus, tiny schools such as Menwith Hill and Hanau find themselves lumped in among the Lakenheaths and Heidelbergs in the new five-region setup.

DODDS-Europe athletic director Karen Seadore said there is a reason for the move other than an expected decrease in travel costs.

“More importantly, there will be a decrease in the loss of school time for students and teacher-coaches, and our parents should have more opportunities to see their children participate in games scheduled closer to home,” she wrote in an e-mail.

All the teams will still travel to Mannheim on Feb. 20-23 for the annual European tournaments, where the divisional format will be reinstated.

Until then, regions rule.

Reactions to the change were mixed this week.

“I’m looking forward (to the new format),” wrote Spencer Bean of defending Division II champion Baumholder.

This year it will be a D-III school at tourney time, but it plays at D-I champion Heidelberg on Saturday. “We will play larger schools than we have in the past, and I think that can only help us prepare more for the tournament,” he said.

Bean added that the regional format might work against the bigger schools, which in theory won’t face the level of competition they have in the past. It’s a point also made by Darwin McDonald, coach of the D-III AFNORTH Lady Lions.

“Basically, the larger schools will be playing an exhibition season, since wins will come relatively easy for them,” McDonald wrote.

According to Terrence Hoffman, coach of the D-II Bitburg Barons, the regional setup, “doesn’t help us prepare for the tournament. The regular season is non-structured, and there is no importance attached to it. It is designed … for the convenience of travel.”

However, some coaches said they and their teams won’t miss the tedious treks the regional system eliminates, such Vilseck’s blizzard-struck slog home from Aviano last season or the up-to-18-hour bus junkets from central Europe to England.

“My players say the format is OK, as long as we do not have to travel three-five hours on the road to play a game,” wrote Bamberg’s Chuck Jordan.

Although the season begins with a few games Friday, Seadore said no decision has been made about awarding regional championships.

Except for one. Region V, the new name for the American Schools in Italy League, will award championships as usual, according to Aviano’s Ken McNeely.

The procedure for possible regional titles, however, is less seamless elsewhere.

“It would be hard to have a regional champ, since we are playing D-I and D-II schools,” wrote Jordan, whose Barons are the defending D-IV champs. “But it is great to have the competition.…”

And even though the schedule says traditional rivals Wiesbaden and Ramstein won’t meet until possibly at tournament time, individual school initiative says otherwise.

“Schools were able to schedule four games out of region,” wrote Wiesbaden Lady Warriors coach Jim Campbell. “We were able to schedule these games with some of our old familiar rivals, Kaiserslautern and Ramstein, that are now out of our region.”

For Heidelberg’s Brad Shahan, reassuming his familiar place on the Lions’ bench this season, the new format doesn’t make much difference.

“We always try to play everyone in our area with extra games,” wrote Shahan, whose team opens its season Friday at Patch. “We will still play Ramstein (and) K-town home and away. We are trying to see Lakenheath … later in the season.”

Concluded Bamberg’s Jordan, “It does not matter whether it is a regional setup or a league, you as a coach still have to prepare your team for a tournament or league competition.”

The teams...

Regional lineups

Region I—Alconbury, Brussels, International School of Brussels, Lakenheath, Menwith Hill, SHAPERegion II—AFNORTH, Baumholder, Bitburg, Kaiserslautern, RamsteinRegion III—Black Forest Academy, Hanau, Heidelberg, Mannheim, Wiesbaden, WürzburgRegion IV—Ansbach, Bamberg, Hohenfels, Patch, VilseckRegion V—American Overseas School of Rome, Aviano, Marymount, Milan, Naples, Sigonella, Vicenza

Defending champs

BoysDivision I—HeidelbergDivision II—BaumholderDivision III—GiessenDivision IV—Bamberg

GirlsDivision I—RamsteinDivision II—NaplesDivision III—HanauDivision IV—Brussels

Returning stars

BoysFirst-team All-Europe—Chris Frazier, Heidelberg; Scott Sublousky, Ramstein.Second-team All-Europe—Andre’ Dean, Aviano; Josh Frank, Vilseck (transfer from Kaiserslautern); Jeff Shelton, Rota.

GirlsFirst-team All-Europe—Ashley Hicks, Vilseck; Sierra Stayberg, Ramstein.Second-team All-Europe—Nancy Jensen, Wiesbaden; Darien Moon, Naples; Fallon Puppolo, Heidelberg; Latanya Wilson, Kaiserslautern (transfer from Hanau).

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